Kam Shan Country Park Biodiversity

by Thomas Gomersall

It’s hard to think of a country park in Hong Kong where man and nature come more face-to-face than in Kam Shan Country Park. This is in no small part thanks to the large population of highly inquisitive rhesus macaques that give it its nickname, Monkey Mountain.

But macaques are not the only species that call this country park home; just the most obvious. In the forest that cloaks the slopes, hiding amongst the trees or skulking in the undergrowth, are a whole range of other animals and plants, no doubt sustained by the life-giving water of the four reservoirs that are located here.

Rhesus Macaque (Macaca mulatta): The rhesus macaque lives anywhere where there is a suitable amount of forest and food. But there are few places outside of Kam Shan Country Park where Hong Kong’s most common primate, after humans, can be seen in such biblically huge proportions.

Although this species is native to Hong Kong, the current population is not the original wild stock. Instead, they are the descendants of monkeys that were released into the Kowloon hills in the 1910s (Shek, 2006 p. 241). Since then, their population has exploded to over 1,800 individuals today. They feed mainly on fruit, but they are not fussy eaters and will also eat seeds, roots, flowers and insects, as well as human food snatched from passers-by and rubbish bins (Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, 2019). They live in complex social groups of 20 to 100 to even 200 animals (Shek, 2006, p. 241), and maintain ties with each other through facial expressions, vocalisations and mutual grooming.

Common Eggfly (Hypolimnas bolina): A widespread butterfly in Hong Kong, the common eggfly’s preferred habitat is woodland areas with plentiful shrubs. It is highly sexually dimorphic; males have black uppersides with prominent metallic blue spots in the central forewings and hindwings while females have largely blackish brown upperparts with only scant metallic blue to them. It is a highly territorial butterfly that will guard its territory from a specific perching site, which it will frequently return to (Lo & Hui, 2004, p. 454 — p. 455). Males will also use these perching sites to locate potential mates (Kemp & Rutowski, 2001) and male fidelity to sites increases with age (Kemp, 2001).

Crested Goshawk (Accipiter trivirgatus): Although the crested goshawk is a forest specialist, as the urban jungle has continued to encroach on the real one, this forest specialist has gradually started becoming more street smart. A study from Taiwan found that goshawks were adjusting their breeding behaviours to better suit the urban environment, breeding earlier and having a much higher nesting success rate than their rural counterparts. This was attributed to lower predation and a more stable food supply in urban areas (Lin et al, 2015). Females are extremely protective mothers and have even been known to attack humans who pass too close to their nests (Viney et al, 2005, p. 70)

Rose Myrtle (Rhodomyrtus tomentosa): This is one of Hong Kong’s most common plants, in no small part because of its adaptability. It is able to grow in forests, wetlands, along rivers and even in coastal habitats, although in Hong Kong it mainly grows on hillsides. This small tree is a common ornamental plant due to its beautiful pink flowers. But it also provides something much more important to both humans and wildlife: its ovular, purplish-red fruit, which it puts out in September and October. These can be eaten directly or turned into jam or wine. In fact, refugees fleeing into the mountains of China and Hong Kong during the war were said to have survived on the fruit until peacetime. However, it is not recommended to eat large numbers of them as this can lead to constipation (Green Power, 2015).

Hong Kong Gordonia (Polyspora axillaris): Following the end of the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong during World War II, during which vast swathes of forests and their soils were degraded, the Hong Kong gordonia was selected as a candidate plant for reforestation efforts due to its ability to withstand poor soil conditions. As a result, large numbers of them were planted across Hong Kong and it shows today, as this is an abundant plant here. In winter, both in its juvenile and adult life stages, its delicate white flowers come out in their thousands. Flowers produced in the earlier life stage are much easier to see as they grow close to the ground, whereas those of the adult plant grow higher up in the forest canopy (Chan, 2018).


· Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, Wild Monkeys of Hong Kong, [website], 2019, https://www.afcd.gov.hk/english/conservation/con_fau/con_fau_mon/con_fau_mon_wild/con_fau_mon_wild.html#top (Accessed: 15th April 2019).

· Chan, T.W.M., ‘Hong Kong’s tree walks teach you about nature as you hike or stroll — and you don’t even have to leave the concrete jungle’. South China Morning Post, 12 January 2018, https://www.scmp.com/lifestyle/travel-leisure/article/2127911/hong-kongs-tree-walks-teach-you-about-nature-you-hike-or (Accessed: 23 September 2019).

· Green Power. ‘A life-saving fruit — Rose Myrtle’. Green Country, issue 115, August 2015 https://www.greenpower.org.hk/html5/eng/ws_115.shtml (Accessed: 15th April 2019).

· Kemp, D.J. 2001. Age-related site fidelity in the territorial butterfly Hypolimnas bolina (L.) (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae). Australian Journal of Entomology, vol. 40 (1): 65pp.–68pp.

· Kemp, D.J., Rutowski, R.L. 2001. Spatial and temporal patterns of territorial mate locating behaviour in Hypolimnas bolina (L.) (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae). Journal of Natural History, vol. 35 (9): 1399pp.–1411pp.

· Lin, W.L., Lin, S.M., Lin, J.W., Wang, Y. and H.Y. Tseng. 2015. Breeding performance of Crested Goshawk Accipiter trivirgatus in urban and rural environments of Taiwan. Bird Study, vol. 62 (2): 177pp.–184pp.

· Lo, P.Y.F. and Hui, W.L. 2004. Hong Kong Butterflies, 1st edn., Friends of the Country Parks, Hong Kong. 454pp.–455pp.

· Shek, C.T. 2006. A field guide to the terrestrial mammals of Hong Kong, Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, Hong Kong SAR Government, Hong Kong. 241pp.

· Viney, C., Phillipps, K. and C.Y. Lam. 2005. The Birds of Hong Kong and South China. Information Services Department, Hong Kong SAR Government, Hong Kong. 70pp.



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